My first blog Coma, sucks. I knew it, my husband knew it, and so did my mother-in-law. When I asked her if she read it, I think she said, “I like the part where you said that it [North Carolina] felt like home, because that part made sense.” Hmm… My husband said it was good, but I could see him frantically searching his brain for anything, and I mean ANYTHING, supportive to say. I think he compared my first blog to how he feels after he has made a speech. When he gives speeches, he never thinks he does a good job (p.s. he is an excellent public speaker), afterward everyone comes up to him to tell him how good it was. He continues by explaining how most people can’t do what you do, i.e. write or speak publicly, so you’re better than most the population. Huh? The blog is good because most everyone else CAN’T write? That doesn’t sound very flattering.
I’m not picking on my husband or mother-in-law, I assure you. They were just reaffirming what I already knew: that the blog sucks. It is fragmented and hard to read, with one thought jumping clumsily to the next. There were moments of almost beautiful clarity, but those didn’t quite mesh with the next thought. The tone is all wrong **sorry, I just flashed on a scene from Joe Dirt**. One minute I’m speaking plainly and directly and the next I’m trying to compare myself to a bullet proof vest that has had one too many bullets (although I really did feel that way). Not a bad metaphor, just used in the wrong place, and probably way too fiction writer-y. Then the tone shifts wildly from despair to kicking ass, ending in a quote from a Tarantino flick. I knew it was shit, because I’ve read enough books to know what makes a good book, and what makes a really bad one. If you want to see how bad it is, read it, it’s still there.
As I pondered my first blog blunder, my thoughts were drawn back to the journey I’ve been on this past year. My whole world has been turned upside down, everything I knew, changed. I’ve shifted wildly into another life this year, a new Jenny. One that not many people know, or at least fully. Most people know the other Jenny, the Associate Director. The new Jenny is not defined by a title, or by numbers: the six figure earnings including benefits and 401k matching, the 18 million dollar budget I managed, and the million and a half people my department fed annually. I had forgotten who I used to be, the young girl in junior college at DMACC who excelled in English courses and loved to write. The one that was inspired and creative and romantic. Or the girl who discovered she was a natural event planner after transferring to and graduating from Iowa State University (ISU), like she was born to do it.
But an Assistant Manager of Catering at ISU only made $30k a year, and had the word “assistant” before it. If I was going to be ‘successful’ I had to manage more people, keep climbing the professional ladder. Even as I moved on to Colorado and the University of Northern Colorado, my blind ambition to be the best, make the most, be held in the highest of prestige took me on a career path that was slowly ruining me. It was killing me. What would people think of me if I didn’t have the word “Director” in my title? But I couldn’t stand going to work. I was filled with dread every Sunday night, thinking of the hell I would encounter the next morning. I didn’t want to wake up, get out of bed, or get dressed and drive to work. Didn’t want to face those people, or listen to their mindless, baby bullshit. I couldn’t protect myself from all the evil that lurked in that politically charged environment. I was too emotionally unstable to shield myself from all the stress that job dropped on me in droves. I cared too much, wanted to do too much. Energy was being deducted from my energy bank at an alarming rate. I would get home and spend that night dreading the next day, or thinking about a conversation I had with an employee or co-worker earlier that day, week, or month that maybe didn’t go well. I couldn’t let go, couldn’t stop my thoughts from racing when it was time to put my head on the pillow. No amount of exercise and subsequent exhaustion or medication could make me sleep at night. I simply hated every day of my life.
Which was pretty unfair to my husband who is seriously the greatest guy I know. A guy who only wanted one thing from me, happiness. He felt he couldn’t give it to me, and felt responsible with the burden of putting a smile on my face. I was torturing him too, in my misery.
I was at UNC for ten years. That is a decade misery. A decade of losing myself. A decade of our marriage gone. I didn’t want to be the way that I was, or act the way I was acting, or treat my husband badly. It took a bold move to Texas, albeit a brief bout, and then to North Carolina, to save me. My husband saved me, and I’m saving me too. In our new life we agreed that I would take care of everything at home, and pursue my dream of writing, and he would work and support us financially, and pursue his dream of owning a Harley-Davidson dealership.
Within a month of leaving my job in Colorado my previously three-times-higher-than-it-should-be cortisol level, dropped within normal range. I lost fifteen pounds without effort. I smiled more often, I delighted in caring for my husband. It was so nice to feel needed, and truly appreciated. It took me a while to let myself feel calm. I had been in fight or flight mode for years, a mode that is supposed to last only long enough to outrun a saber tooth tiger. I finally outran that damn tiger. I started my book by mapping out the plot and characters, and started taking care of myself by going to physical therapy regularly and working out. I took things in stride and became steady, consistent, and more rational.
And now I’m taking you for an abbreviated ride on our journey from feeling stuck in our jobs and in our lives, to feeling liberated, however uncomfortable or unfamiliar. We were almost 40, all we had to do was the same thing we had been doing for the past several years. But we didn’t, we uprooted ourselves, threw caution to the wind and said, let’s go for it, what do we have to lose? And I’m so glad we did.
Needless to say, my definition of success has changed. So today I’m blogging and being vulnerable, something I learned from Kristen Lamb last weekend in her Blogging for Authors class. I didn’t know what to write about, or think that I could be interesting enough that anyone would want to read what I wrote. I met a group of authors online that are my new friends and support network. We take part in writing “sprints” that keep us accountable by meeting at agreed upon times and reporting word counts incrementally. I feel loved. I feel like I can really do this. And I am excited about the coming days, weeks, and months as I learn from other writers and learn more about myself. The self that had been tamped down and suffocated for so long, that I thought would never discover again. She is here ladies and gents, I introduce to you, Jenny, the Writer. Jenny, the future New York Times best seller, and yes, blogger.
If you have any thoughts you would like to share on this post, please comment, I’d love to hear from you. We all have struggles and sometimes it is nice to know that you’re not alone. If you like it, well, please sign up for WordPress and show your love for me by officially liking my blog. And as nod to my big sister, I leave you with, ta ta for now.